How did CEOs do during the pandemic?

Did CEOs take a pay hit like many workers did during the pandemic? The article CEO pay has skyrocketed 1,322% since 1978 by Lawrence Mishel and Jori Kandra (8/10/2021) suggests CEOs did just fine last year. Their chart shows that realized CEO compensation grew during 2020 compared to the average worker.

Details on the metric:

We focus on the average compensation of CEOs at the 350 largest publicly owned U.S. firms (i.e., firms that sell stock on the open market) by revenue. Our source of data is the S&P ExecuComp database for the years 1992 to 2020 and survey data published by the Wall Street Journal for selected years back to 1965. We maintain the sample size of 350 firms each year when using the ExecuComp data.

The realized measure of compensation includes the value of stock options as realized (i.e., exercised), capturing the change from when the options were granted to when the CEO invokes the options, usually after the stock price has risen and the options values have increased. The realized compensation measure also values stock awards at their value when vested (usually three years after being granted), capturing any change in the stock price as well as additional stock awards provided as part of a performance award.

The granted measure of compensation values stock options and restricted stock awards by their “fair value” when granted (Compustat estimates of the fair value of options and stock awards as granted determined using the Black Scholes model).

Well maybe CEO pay just went down less than worker pay and that is why the ratio went up. In table 1, realized pay for 2019 is $20,351,000 with 2020 projected as $24,194,00. There are other graphs in the article and data available for download.

About Thomas J. Pfaff

Thomas J. Pfaff is a Professor of Mathematics at Ithaca College. He created this website because he believes that sustainability, ranging from climate change to social justice, should be included in all courses whenever possible.

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